Put simply, Alysha Ellis is transforming lives. In 2015, The Cleveland State MBA student teamed with her mother to found Healthy Living Kitchen, a foundational vehicle aimed at empowering individuals to make healthy food and lifestyle choices that can be sustained throughout their lives.

Healthy Living Kitchen offers cooking classes and educational workshops that help the community better understand the importance of eating whole foods and the positive impact proper nutrition can have on an individual’s health and overall wellness.

Alysha is also a graduate of JumpStart’s Core City: Cleveland Impact Program, an intensive business assistance program designed to support the development and growth of businesses located within Cleveland’s core neighborhoods.

We had an opportunity to chat with Alysha about how her mother’s recent life-changing health transformation shaped the idea for their business and the hurdles she has overcome as both a female and Latinx entrepreneur.

What inspired you to create Healthy Living Kitchen? Where did the idea come from?
My business was founded by my mother. She was very ill a couple of years ago and the doctors required her to quit her job and start down a new path with holistic health services. She couldn’t really afford to do that because she had a family to raise, including me and my sister.

A year later, she became even more ill, and it was really a life-or-death situation for her. She went back to her doctors and they gave her a life-changing pamphlet—one that transformed her life through food and exercise. And that’s how the Healthy Living Kitchen began.

She knew she wasn’t the only one dealing with the challenge of trying to lead a healthy lifestyle, so she wanted to help others. Our business addresses the problems associated with individuals’ lack of access to healthy foods, and we also address the problems related to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

How did you connect with the Core City: Cleveland program, and what do you think so far? Any surprises?
I first heard about the Impact Program from a close friend of mine that is a business advisor. They recommended it, so I applied, and I’m incredibly happy to have had the opportunity to be a part of this program.

As for surprises, in the beginning, I wasn’t really expecting to network with the other businesses because I kind of thought of them as competition. But now, I feel like we’ve really been able to communicate with one another on how we grow our businesses. We’ve shared the challenges we face on a day-to-day basis and how our businesses have been impacted since being involved with the 12-week program.

What are your future plans for your business?
We want to ramp up our prepared foods service. My mom loves cooking and I am her test bunny, but I’m tired of testing everything, we really want to get it out on the market!

Are there any unique challenges you feel you’ve had to face as a female entrepreneur?
Yes, I’ve definitely faced challenges as a female entrepreneur. I would say one of the biggest has been just feeling as though I can approach different people and feel empowered and encouraged and like my voice is being heard as a woman. This is especially true in the city of Cleveland, it’s very male-dominated. So, I believe that as a woman, it can be challenging to go into business and be taken seriously.

From the perspective of a minority entrepreneur from the Latinx community in the Clark-Fulton area, I don’t feel like we really take ownership. We’re really not looked at as business people per se. So, now more than ever it’s time to stand up and take ownership of the ideas and the visions that we have inside of our homes and really take them out into the community.

We ask all the entrepreneurs we speak with to give us examples of failure or setbacks they experienced. Anything come to mind for you?
As I mentioned earlier, my mom was the founder of the Healthy Living Kitchen about 16 months ago. I really wish that early on, I would have taken more ownership of the business. In the last six months, I’ve come to realize that’s more my function—the business component.

My mom is a professional culinarian and she doesn’t really need to handle the business side of things. I wish I would have known that in the early stages and not just helped out here and there, but really dove in and invested more in her and in the business. Now that I’m doing that, I couldn’t be happier.

Watch Alysha’s elevator pitch for Healthy Living Kitchen below. To learn more about the Core City: Cleveland program, click here.

Gloria Ware

Gloria leads JumpStart’s strategic efforts to create inclusive, high-impact entrepreneurial ecosystems. She brings a wealth of finance and business development expertise to the organization, along with a passion for community engagement.